Sleep Dysfunction, Dreaming and Safety
The Beatles sang about sleep and dreaming on one of their best albums (Revolver) in the song ‘I’m Only Sleeping’. Dreaming is often used as a metaphor for envisioning and imagination. This also coincided with their experimentation in psychedelics, marking their most creative period.
We live in a strange world where there is an abundance of interest in sleep science, sleep dysfunction and sleep therapy but so little interest in dreaming. Yet we know that the peak of REM sleep in REM dreaming is our best sleep (https://aeon.co/essays/we-live-in-a-wake-centric-world-losing-touch-with-our-dreams ). Naiman, argues convincingly that we have lost touch with our dreaming and in scientism have turned dreaming into an annoying mechanical outcome of sleeping.
We have been indoctrinated with the mantra ‘it’s just a dream’. Similarly, we have been told that the ancients and past civilization privileging of dreaming is just old superstition or religious nonsense.
Yet, whenever people present for counselling and help, they often speak of their dreams associated with sleeping problems.
We now know that sleeping disorders are common. Some describe sleeping dysfunction at ‘epidemic levels’:
Unfortunately, we live in a society that is so influenced by scientism that we now believe that dreams have no meaning. Whilst the West lives in ignorance of dreaming, Indigenous Australians place dreaming at the centre of their worldview. Just like the delusion of brain-centrism we now make wake-centrism the priority for what we do with dreams and how we understand sleep. Dreams are relegated to something we ‘try to forget’ rather than something we ‘work’ on.
But before we start venturing down a discussion on the unconscious, dreaming and sleep disorders we need to be clear about our assumptions of personhood, being and anthropological assumptions. When one brings materialist and behaviourist assumptions to the topic of sleep and dreams, a brain-centric worldview dominates and so sleep disorders are narrowed down to physiological symptoms and brain-centric neuroscience.
What has this got to do with safety?
The mechanistic/behaviourist scientism worldview is attractive to safety but it doesn’t help I tackling the challenges of sleep dysfunction and the many safety and mental health spin-offs. Just look at all this brain-centric stuff that interests Safety with its full of an engineering worldview overlaid on the process of how the brain works.
When you view humans as a ‘factor in a system (https://safetyrisk.net/human-factors-is-never-about-humans/ ) why should Safety take any interest in sleep disorders or REM dreaming? Just look at the language of this stuff:
When the brain is constructed as a computer, safety become process of reprogramming. None of this is holistic or real. The reality is all research in neuropsychology continues to understand sleep/dreaming as a mystery:
Then observe the marketing of this ‘safety goop’ on brain safety where assumptions are never declared, engineering dominates undisclosed expertise and such unethical marketing presents so many silences on the wicked problem of sleep dysfunction, Mind and dreaming. I know, let’s investigate neuropsychology by asking an engineer about education and learning.
Worldviews matter and precede assumptions about REM dreaming/sleep and how one understands healthy, ethical personhood. Impaired sleep should be of central interest to the risk and safety industry, yet it is not. Naiman describes that we live in ‘a morphephobic culture’ that is, we are fearful of engaging with our dreams and afraid of the human unconscious. In the risk and safety world in its materialist delusions, any mention of sleep and REM dreaming is relegated to irrelevance and being ‘off with the fairies’. In a similar way, the risk and safety frames an understanding of human emotions as dangerous because they cannot be ‘controlled’. All of this just adds to the list of many ‘safety silences’ (https://safetyrisk.net/safety-silences-video-series/; https://safetyrisk.net/silences-in-safety/ ).
If you want to know about safety culture, don’t get distracted by all it is noisy about, listen to its silences and you will see what it doesn’t believe.
REM dreaming is associated with a host of mental and physical health concerns. Yet you won’t find any discussion in the safety world about this in reference to mental health. Yet, in all my work in the mental health sector, tackling the challenges of sleep and REM dreaming are central to understanding wellness.
It is so clear, Safety has no interest in wholeness of persons (https://safetyrisk.net/holistic-responses-to-mental-health/ ) despite the fact that lack of REM sleep is a factor in fatalities. In Safety, mental health is understood a brain-centric (https://safetyrisk.net/how-not-to-view-mental-health-and-safety/). Just have read of some of these and you will see the nature of the problem: https://safetyrisk.net/?s=Mental+health
It is strange that safety recognizes sleep disorders as a safety problem (https://www.workalert.org.au/screening-for-sleep-disorders ) even documenting its cost but as an industry there is no research interest in REM sleep and dreaming. What we see here is a behaviourist bias that recognizes the physical outcomes of something it doesn’t wish to tackle (the unconscious).
Worldview shapes ethic and method.
It is clear that Safety is afraid of things it cannot control and so it doesn’t discuss or tackle anything it deems mysterious. How would a discussion on REM dreaming possibly help with understanding mental health and safety? Just police the regulation and do your job.
Whenever I work with people who are challenged by mental health issues, I start with a conversation about sleep and dreaming. When we speak of ‘envisioning’ (https://www.humandymensions.com/product/envisioning-risk-seeing-vision-and-meaning-in-risk/ ) we encounter discussion of imagination, discovery and creativity. No wonder so many musicians sing about dreaming and imagine/create from their dreams. But it’s not only music, so many innovations come from dreaming (https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2018/05/04/7-innovations-you-wont-believe-came-from-dreams_a_23426199/ ).
If you want to be more innovative at work (https://www.bedguru.co.uk/9-inventions-inspired-by-dreams ) and more creative in risk and safety perhaps start by ‘working’ on your dreams.